Outsiders: Ray Wilson

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2007

Age: 74.

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Occupation: Construction (Retired).

Favorite Outdoor Activites: I really enjoyed hunting and fishing when I was younger. I still like to go fishing sometimes. I also used to play basketball.

My younger brother and I helped start the ANB and ANS, who won Gold Medal back in 1969, and I still enjoy watching Gold Medal games.

Favorite outdoor memory: I would have to say my fondest memories are my early days in Juneau and watching it blossom. As children, my brother and I had to get up early and do chores, chop kindling and things like that before eating breakfast and go to school. I spent a lot of time out doors and was used to hard work, so it was easy to find work. My father and brother and I were the first Natives to get into the construction business, and we sort of opened the door to other Natives to join the unions. We built a lot of the buildings in Juneau. The most important thing I do is give back. I work with Harbor View, I enjoy working with children, also the "All Nations Children Dance Group." Giving back for the good life I have had, helping children.

Close encounter: When I was a younger man I fished a lot, and one time I was out in a 52-foot fishing boat fishing for Halibut outside Lituya Bay. We had some new nylon line and gear and had just thrown it over the side when we saw a storm coming at us.

It became worse and larger boats than ours began coming in. These were boats made for the open sea, and they were running before the storm. They began blowing their horns and signaling "Highball" to tell us to get back into the bay.

We began cutting the hooks on the main line, and then the skipper put on his rain gear and headed up topside. The waves were probably 20 feet high now. He came to me and said that he was going up top and tie himself to the cabin.

There is a second wheel below in the cabin, and they are directly connected so you can steer from either one. He told me to go to it and watch it. He would try to bring the ship in, but if the wheel began to spin, it meant something had happened to him and I would have to grab it and try to get the boat into safety and steer into the waves.

I went into the cabin and looked down into a trough, then as we began to climb I was looking up into a wall of water, a 30-foot wave. Lituya Bay's mouth is partly blocked by a reef, and the skipper did get us around it and into safety. But it was one of the scariest days of my life.

Favorite outdoor spot: Auke Rec. It has a good feeling to it. It has good spirits there, I really like it.

•Outsiders is a weekly profile in the Juneau Empire's Outdoors section.

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